Reid: Senate will vote on military sexual assault bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) listed several legislative items Monday that he said the Senate would consider during February.

Among the list was legislation addressing military sexual assault. Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have bills that address the problem differently, but Reid didn't offer specifics on whether both bills will get votes.

"The Senate will also debate legislation to effectively prevent and punish sexual assault in the nation’s Armed Forces," Reid said.

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Gillibrand’s bill would remove reporting sexual assaults from the military chain of command, while McCaskill’s would keep today's system in place but add supports and protection for those who report crimes within their ranks. Some of McCaskill’s recommendations were included in the National Defense Authorization Act, but because of time constraints amendments from Gillibrand and McCaskill didn’t receive up-or-down votes at the end of last year.

Reid also mentioned that Democrats would not give up on passing an extension of unemployment insurance. Earlier this month, Democrats failed to get enough GOP support to advance a three-month or 11-month extension, even when the bill was fully offset by spending reductions.

Reid’s comments came as he warned senators that they needed to pass a flood insurance reform bill this week, because the coming month would be busy with other topics. A vote on a motion to proceed to S. 1926 is expected later Monday.

“I hope the Senate can wrap up work on this measure quickly,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. “Homeowners deserve certainty, and the Senate faces a substantial workload over the next three weeks.”

Lawmakers are also expected to pass a measure extending the debt ceiling as early as mid-February. Reid also said the Senate would consider a farm bill conference report, expected to be released this week.

Reid said he also wanted to confirm several more judicial and executive branch nominees. He said the timing on those confirmation votes would depend on “the level of cooperation we recent from Republicans.”

Republicans have forced Democrats to use all debate time on nominees since Reid used the nuclear option to change Senate filibuster rules for most nominees. Democrats need only a simple majority to advance most nominees — before the rule change 60 votes were needed. GOP senators argued the rule change damaged the Senate forever by limiting minority party rights.